Influential House Republicans are pushing the storyline that immigration reform is being crowded off the congressional calendar due to Syria and other issues. While the attempt to solidify the conventional wisdom about reform may help diminish expectations, other voices are seeing through the excuses. As the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent notes today:
If immigration reform dies, it’s only because the House GOP leadership decided to kill it. That’s just all there is to it.
The Washington Post editorializes against the House Republican leadership’s excuses on immigration, and in particular, the role of Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA). Noting that the Senate immigration bill “would likely have the votes for passage if it were allowed on the floor for a vote,” the Post writes:
Those seeking a standard-bearer for the do-nothing Congress need look no farther than Rep. Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican. When it comes to delay, denial and delusion, Mr. Goodlatte is an exemplar…Mr. Goodlatte’s panel has passed a handful of piecemeal immigration bills, all of which avoid the main issue, which is what to do about the 11 million immigrants living illegally in the United States. Those bills passed without Democratic support and stand no chance of success on the House floor, where some Republican lawmakers are wary of voting for any immigration bill, no matter how narrow, for fear it could become a vehicle for compromise (gasp!) with the Senate. All this is fine with Mr. Goodlatte, who told the Wall Street Journalthat it’s okay to simply debate the immigration mess without doing anything to fix it.
Mr. Goodlatte’s alternative to legalizing undocumented immigrants, most of whom have lived and worked in this country for more than a decade, is stepped-up enforcement at the local level and making unlawful presence in the United States a federal crime. The Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act, which he co-sponsored in June, has no chance to become law, but it does give voice to the Republican fantasy of self-deportation, the notion that millions of people will leave the country on their own accord if they are sufficiently harassed. After repeated delays, GOP leaders said this summer that they expected to bring immigration legislation to the House floor in September. Now they say the agenda looks too crowded. They should reconsider. With millions of hardworking immigrants and their children waiting to leave the shadows, an empty legislative process is not good enough.
In addition to not being good enough as an excuse, the delay reform and diminish expectations strategy also is a dangerous move for the Republican Party politically. As Eliseo Medina of SEIU told the New York Times:
We don’t control the timing. What we do control is the pressure. They will get this done when the pressure is so great they have to act.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
“If Republican leaders are serious about getting immigration reform done this year, they need to stop relying on process and calendar excuses, blow past Bob Goodlatte’s delay-and-derail approach and empower serious Republicans to work with serious Democrats to get this done. What are House leaders afraid of? As August recess demonstrated, the anti-immigrant movement has no juice and the pro-reform movement is on fire. The House leaders know what’s at stake: if they block reform, the GOP will lose seats in 2014 and lose the White House in 2016.”